Top Gear is a game that represents an obvious attempt to cash in on the street racing craze by providing bargain-basement production values, unlicensed cars, and about as much excitement as a half-lit sparkler.
- Decent customizable car models
- Solid racing controls.
- Generic street tracks that lack any real variety or aesthetic value
- Ugly environments and street traffic
- Not many cars to choose from, and the customizations list leaves a lot to be desired
- No online multiplayer, and the offline multiplayer isn't that great to begin with
- Adventure mode is boring, silly, and just plain bad (not to mention frustrating).
Every six seconds, another street racing game is produced. At least, that's what it feels like nowadays, what with your Need for Speed Undergrounds, Midnight Clubs, Street Racing Syndicates, Juiced's, and what have you. However, unlike the latest racer to hit the streets--Kemco's Top Gear RPM Tuning--some of these other games are actually good. The latest entry in Kemco's once-excellent and now progressively irrelevant Top Gear racing franchise is an obvious attempt to cash in on the street racing craze by providing bargain-basement production values, unlicensed cars, and about as much excitement as a half-lit sparkler. Sure, it may be twenty bucks, but as the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for."
It's apparent from the moment you boot up Top Gear that the game really doesn't have a lot to offer. You're presented with a couple of play modes and a scant selection of available cars, none of which exists in real life. Each car has its assorted statistics and racing styles, so some have better handling, while some are speedier, and so on. You can even rename your cars to something realistic, if you so desire. The "RPM Tuning" in Top Gear RPM Tuning refers to the game's main draw, which is the ability to customize your cars like crazy. Each car can be tweaked mechanically and aesthetically with all sorts of body kits, wheels, engines, exhaust systems, and such, all of which can be bought and placed on your car. There's a semi-decent variety of stuff, and all of it has a solid effect on your car. Better spoilers will increase your downforce, cooler-looking body kits will increase your "fame" rating, and so on. However, the list of available customizations still pales in comparison to pretty much any other customizable street racer on the market right now.
You earn the money to buy your assorted customizations by playing through the game's adventure mode, which features a ridiculous story-based series of quests that so horribly and desperately mimic The Fast and The Furious that they transcend funny and become just plain sad. You play as a mysterious up-and-comer on the local street racing circuit named Vince Riker, a hero so trite and lifeless that by the end of the adventure you'll be begging for Paul Walker to show up to drolly exclaim "Mia, I am a cop!" just to inject some life into the whole fiasco. Yes, he's that boring. And what, precisely, does Vince's adventure entail? It mainly consists of lots of half-baked setups for assorted street races set against a backdrop that includes feisty Latina racers, a grizzled old war veteran-turned-mechanic who resembles Kris Kristofferson a whole lot, cops, fast cars, and intrigue...or something. The whole thing just doesn't make any sense at all. Are you supposed to be a cop? What exactly are you on the hunt for? What is this "RedSet" thing the game keeps bringing up, yet continually forgets to explain until the very end? Oh, who cares! All you need to know is that none of the story is interesting, well told, or fun.
The worst parts about the adventure mode are the mission structure and the atrocious placement of save points. Frequently, you'll find yourself taking part in three-race championships, where you have to earn a certain number of points to win. In each of these, there's always some goofy little race you'll have to engage in before or after the championship, so there are actually four races. The problem is that what you need to do to progress seems to always come right at the end. If you have to win the championship to move on and you don't, the game sets you back about four races. If you win the championship but then have to evade the brain-dead-but-plentiful cops that are chasing you in the next segment and fail, you have to start the championship all over again. Considering some of these segments can take upwards of a half hour each, after a while you'll probably just want to give up.
The actual racing doesn't do much to salvage the game. The one thing you can't complain about are the controls, which handle reasonably well. There are some issues with drifts spinning out, even when you aren't really traveling all that fast, and the collision detection is random, to say the least. But otherwise, the cars handle fine. The most obnoxious thing about races involves the blatantly obvious rubber-band artificial intelligence. It actually works both ways, though. If you're way behind, the game will let you catch up to your opponents...to a degree. It will stop you, however, just when it seems like you're within reach of them. You can speed up whenever you hit your nitro, though, but you're basically blockaded from the lead. On the flip side, if you manage to hit the lead, your main opponent will always be just behind you, waiting for you to slip up. The most hysterical thing is that other cars will actually go out of their ways to bump you, just to make sure you don't beat the main opponent. To say this is frustrating would be an understatement.
The tracks are thoroughly dull as well. All the races take place in something of an open-ended city, but there's such a limited number of paths to take. Apart from a few bouts with big jumps, it's just long straightaway, hairpin turn, 90-degree turn, another long straightaway, slight curve, another hairpin, and so on. It all becomes predictable and boring very quickly. There's a free ride mode in the adventure mode, but that's even duller, since there's absolutely nothing to do in the city save for earning some more fame and finding occasional shortcuts (of which there are few).
Top Gear won't wow you with its graphics or sound, either. The game is decidedly lacking in flash or style of any kind. The main cars you drive are the most polished, but even they look sort of chunky and jaggy. The other cars that make up the random traffic and police, however, are altogether unbelievable. They actually look half-finished, at most, and they feature blatantly missing textures all over the place. The city you drive around has a decent amount of traffic, but everything just looks bland and low-res. Even attempts at silly little visual effects, like motion blur when you hit your nitrous oxide boost, just seem cheaply done. Now, factor in that there's only one camera angle available (and it's way too close behind your car) and that frame rate issues pop up frequently, and you have a pretty low-rent-looking game. The audio is just as mediocre. Voice acting is predictably forced and awful, the engine noises sound tinny, the crashes are exceedingly underwhelming, and the music is basically the same obnoxious techno loop over and over and over and over again.
The Xbox is not exactly a platform that's hurting for quality racing games or, specifically, quality street racing games. Sure, Top Gear is a measly $20, but when you consider that practically every other street racer on the market pretty much destroys it in terms of features--be they gameplay, modes, or presentation--it's utterly impossible to recommend Top Gear RPM Tuning to anyone.